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In a comment about our new bathroom someone asked whether our kitchen design was different too.  I hadn’t thought about kitchen in those terms, but perhaps it is radical – it’s not very much like the kitchens I see in Bunnings.  I do love it though – it would be one of the main things I would miss if I ever moved.

What makes it different?  fridge

We have a tiny fridge. Fridges use a lot of power.  We have stand alone solar power, and although now we have so much of it we’re more often looking for ways to use it than to save it, our electricity use is designed to allow for a weeks of overcast weather.  All the routine electricity consuming things like lights and fridge are very efficient, all the big users like washing machine and water pumping can wait till the sun shines.  And I find eating fresh and minimising waste both work better with a tiny fridge.

The three slide out buckets under the bench for chook food, recyclables, rubbish are also a design that has lasted.  They are just drawer sliders with a piece of timber with a cut out handle and a bucket sized hole.  I can just scrape chook food off the bench into the bucket, and lift the bucket out to feed the chooks.


I love my big central bench that several people can work at at once.  The big solid slabs of grey gum that it is made from (along with all the kitchen shelving) came from a tree that was grown and milled locally.  It’s a hard hardwood that stands up beautifully to wear.  It’s been resanded and sealed once about 10 years ago, after 15 years of pastry and pasta and preserving, hot pots and teenagers chopping bread without a board. I know how lucky I am – timber like that is a luxury these days and it will never go out of fashion.


Open pantry shelves with everything in glass jars is  a design that I’ve never regretted.  In our rural home, keeping creatures out of things is a challenge.  I could use much stronger language.  Any cupboard or wall cavity or drawer is a hidey hole where an antichinus or a mouse or a rat or a skink or a moth  will take up residence.  I find open shelves and everything in glass jars keeps creatures out.  I can see what I have which encourages me to use it, and it’s easier to avoid clutter.  I keep quite a stock of dry pantry staples – beans, oats, flour, lentils, rice. It helps avoid supermarket trips – I can normally delay it for a long time with what we have on the shelves and in the garden –  which is extra good when the supermarket is half an hour away but I think a good thing anyway – supermarkets are sticky traps.


I love my old fashioned double sink with a draining board either side and no dishwasher. It’s never usually this tidy, or empty.  I actually don’t mind washing up at all – I think it can be a bit of daily mindfulness – some of my best ideas happen while washing up – but I hate drying up and normally leave dishes to drain dry.  I think good systems for washing up is one of those old-fashioned skills that, when you have them, make chores like this quite nice. Whether it is two plates from lunch or a 12 person dinner party, the system handles it. Sometimes we need to be very frugal with water and power and our greywater doesn’t “disappear” so I like a lot of control over what is in it.


The gas stove and the slow combustion wood stove will probably both go in the next five years or so.  With a 4.5kva solar power system, on sunny days even in mid-winter we have power to waste, so I bake bread in a George Foreman electric oven, cook beans in a crockpot slow cooker, make coffee and cook meals on an induction burner.  For summer dinner parties we have a charcoal barbeque.  On wet winter’s days I cook on the Rayburn slow combustion stove and it heats the house and the hot water.  So we use very little non-renewable fuel for anything in the kitchen these days. We picked up the retro “Radiation” brand gas stove about 20 years ago in a roadside throwout.   I like it aesthetically but it is not often used and with non-use, the creatures set up home in the oven insulation. It will probably be replaced with an electric induction hotplate.  The Rayburn slow combustion is about a hundred years old and has pretty well reached the end of its life.  We’ve rebricked it once but it has cracks and warps in the metal now.  I’d love any recommendations you have for replacing it – something that is efficient wood burning with a wetback for water heating and an oven.


I have an aversion to single-purpose kitchen gadgetry and a love for beautiful kitchen tools designed to last generations. But I’m also a coffee snob, specially now we are growing most of our own coffee.  The Little Guy coffee maker was ridiculously expensive even second hand but it does make barista quality cappuccino.  The food processor gets used most every day.  The only other electrical appliances are two old fashioned Crockpot slow cookers, a George Foreman oven, and a stick blender, all sourced from op shops.  The slow cookers get used a lot.  On any sunny day with electricity to spare, there will be stock or beans or chick peas or a rooster in one or both of them. I could probably do with just one but I can’t decide which I like better.  I bake my sourdough and just about everything else in the electric oven these days.


So that’s my kitchen.  Odd or radical?


Liz at Suburban Tomato did a post recently of  Top 5 – Pantry items for the Kitchen Gardener. I was going to comment, but hard as I tried, I couldn’t get anywhere near down to five.

But it did inspire me to start thinking: what are the pantry staples that I’d really want to have on hand if someone called me into a challenge like Fiona’s recent one (that I followed avidly) on Inner Pickle?

  1. Salt: Number one would have to be salt. You can see why it was such a valued trade item. I don’t use a lot of salt, certainly nothing like the amounts that are in processed foods.  But a bit is essential for healthy eating, and very essential for happy eating.
  2. Bakers Flour: Number two is bread making flour, for bread and crispbread and pasta.  I buy Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour in 5 kg bags at the local supermarket.  I guess I’m showing my culinary heritage there!
  3. Wholemeal plain flour: for mixing with the baker’s flour to make the heavy, grainy bread we like, but also for making pies and cakes and biscuits.  I buy Kialla organic wholemeal flour  in bulk from the local wholefoods shop.  It comes from just outside my 100 mile zone.
  4. Oh, and baking powder to go with it to make self raising flour .
  5. Oats: If I had to choose just one form, it would be steel cut or groats, for porridge but also for biscuits and baking and bread and risotto. If I didn’t have to choose just one, I’d have rolled oats too. I have tried growing oats – bandicoot varieties so that processing wouldn’t be prohibitive, but I haven’t really cracked it yet.  In bulk from the local wholefoods shop.
  6. Milk powder, ideally both skim and full cream.  One day we might get back into having milking goats, or a shared cow.  We don’t use a lot of milk, but with powdered milk I could make yoghurt and labne and cottage cheese, which opens up a big range.
  7. Olive oil: Good, extra virgin olive oil. Not an item to be a scrooge with. I buy Australian olive oil in 4 litre tins.
  8. Macadamia oil: If I have maca oil, I don’t need butter. Olive oil has its own, very distinctive fruity flavour. Macadamia oil has a milder, nutty sweetness that lets me use it instead of butter in every recipe I’ve found. I can buy local maca oil in bulk from my local wholefoods shop.  Lucky me.
  9. Honey: I could do without sugar, but honey would be hard. And I’m not a sweet tooth. We can buy it in bulk from a local grower.
  10. Soy sauce or tamari: I guess if I had salt I could live without soy, but it wouldn’t be easy.
That’s the top ten, I think, and I think with them and a garden, I could live and cook for a long time without getting bored or malnourished. But there’s another ten that I’d really miss.
  1. Chocolate, or at least cocoa powder.  Self explanatory! (It’s imported, but fair trade and worth the food miles).
  2. Spices: Black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, cardamom – most are tropical and imported, but they add so much it is easy to see why they have been traded for most of human history.
  3. Brown rice: I can buy locally grown dryland biodynamic brown rice, and its nearly the same price as the cheap and nasty supermarket brands.  I can even buy it in bulk at the local wholefoods shop.
  4. Brown sugar: for baking, but also for preserving.
  5. Vinegar (Balsamic and cider please). I could brew it but I don’t.
  6. Fish sauce: I could live without it, but it does open up a whole range of Asian cooking that makes garden produce gourmet.
  7. Sesame seeds: ok, I do grow them, but never enough. For baking and for tahini.
  8. Sunflower seeds: I grow sunflowers, and we eat some like pistachios shelling them one by one, but the chooks get to eat most of them. I’ve never discovered a way of hulling them that is viable for quantities.
  9. Pearl barley, for bread and also for soups and stews, and just as a nice low GI high fibre carbohydrate.
  10. Polenta: If I get a good corn year I can grow and make it, but it falls into that second tier of gardening that I only do in quiet years (which seem to happen very rarely these days).

And I can think of another ten I usually have in my jars – quinoa, millet, rye flour, oat bran, dates, brown and red lentils, couscous, molasses, vanilla beans, sultanas.

Thirty items in my essential pantry (and to be fair I did cheat a bit by doubling up on varieties).  But with this lot, mostly bought in bulk, I can stay out of a supermarket for months on end.

What have I missed?



My mowing meditation this week was about a great post on Cluttercut about the planned obsolescence that is the basis of our very loopy economy. How does it work that it is “economical” to produce, transport, sell, dispose of stuff that is no use for anything? How did we get suckered into believing in this Ponzi scheme?

Which led me to thinking about kitchen tools and utensils and the Masterchef phenomenon that is leading to a boom in sales of kitchenware. Which then led me to thinking (this is how a mowing meditation goes!) about my favourite kitchen utensils, and how they fit into the whole Story of Stuff.

I love my Braun food processor. I bought it second hand, so I don’t know how old it is, but I have used it several times a week for several years. I compare it to the piece of Chinese made junk that a friend brought home from a K Mart sale, that lasted all of two weeks and was replaced, on warranty, with another one the same that lasted about the same. My Braun is proof that it is not about being a Luddite. I look down my list though and realise, it’s the only favourite that hasn’t already had, or is destined to have, more than a generation of use.

I love my big central kitchen bench that four or five people can comfortably work at together. It reminds me a little of my Nana’s pine kitchen table that was the centre of the house, where kids could help shell peas and listen in on conversations. Modern kitchen designs with benches around the edge are an artefact of a culture that doesn’t get it that food is social.

I love my double sink with two draining boards. It came out of a house that was installing a dishwasher and one of those bizarre in-sink garbage munchers that turn good compost ingredients into aquatic pollution. It uses no electricity and is very economical with water, it can deal with the biggest wash-up, and I never have to dry up.

I love my three really good kitchen knives. The bread knife came from an op shop about 20 years ago. Who knows how old it is. The other two were gifts from my grown up daughter, who knows what I like (and what she wants to inherit!)

I love my mortar and pestle, a gift from the same daughter.

I love my garlic rock, found on the beach. It is a perfect hand size and the perfect tool for crushing and peeling garlic.

I love my big heavy hand carved wooden spoon, bought at a craft market in Central America.

I love my pressure cooker, a gift from my mother. I use it several times a week, often as a pressure cooker for beans or vegetables, but also as a big stainless steel pot or just as a pot with a good fitting lid. I don’t dare ask but I think it was diabolically expensive, but it is destined to become an heirloom.

I love my coffee pot. We became coffee snobs in our time in Cuba, but I don’t get the current fashion for electric expresso makers. They just look like too much cleaning for me.

I love my heavy bottomed cast iron fry pan with a lid, that can go in the oven. I bought it second hand at a garage sale. Why would someone get rid of such a beautiful versatile thing?

I love my pottery casserole pot, a gift from a ceramic artist aunt.

I love my old fashioned egg beater. I inherited it from my grandmother, and it’s a design that hasn’t been improved upon.

I love my macadamia nut cracker. It’s another brilliantly designed tool. I bought it at a market, slightly skeptical about whether it would turn out to be a white elephant, but it has earned a place on the list by cracking macas so easily that they are worth growing.

I love my Rayburn slow combustion stove, bought second hand over 20 years ago and just about to be re-bricked – which is one of the things I love about it – that it can be repaired. We have to plant a dozen trees a year for firewood for it, but otherwise it provides free cooking, hot water and house warming for the winter.

I’m love my Radiation gas stove that we use in the summer. We found it on the side of the road in a throw out, waiting for the Council dump truck, and took it to a gas fitter who replaced the jets. That was 20 years ago. I think it has style that modern stoves lack.

And that’s about it. There are a few more that are “likes” rather than “loves” – a muffin tray, a roasting tray, a bread tin, some cake pans, a can opener that actually works. But there is very little in my kitchen that will end up in a garbage dump, at least in my lifetime.

I’d love to hear your favouite kitchen gear, and how it fits into the story.